The Grand Master of the Knights Templar, imprisoned since 1307 and facing certain death, encodes his last testament. The puppet Pope in Avignon, France, is sure it lists the location of the Templar’s vast treasure and keeps the document as insurance against the corrupt King of France. His monks work tirelessly to decipher the Grand Master’s words, but as Black Plaque decimates Europe, survival becomes more urgent than treasure hunting.
Seven centuries later, in a world where knowledge has replaced mystery and the Vatican’s power wanes in the face of covering up heinous acts, the sitting Pope shepards a more liberal and inclusive church. He seeks to amend grievances and stave off irrelevancy. But powerful conservative forces work against this trend and want to remove the Pope and return to traditional values.
Archaeologist Darwin Lacroix becomes a pawn in this battle when he discovers the Grand Master’s codex in the Vatican Secret Archives. But while Darwin pursues another adventure, a Vatican traitor steals the codex. Modern decryption technology reveals directions to a relic beneath the floor of Notre-Dame de Paris. It’s the first clue to the location of the Templar’s bank: the gold reserves that bankrolled nine Christian Crusades. In addition, the codex hints of a papyrus written by Christ himself.
Could these words of Jesus change the direction of the Church?
Cardinal John Keenan thinks so. A deeply conservative favorite as the next Pope, he fears the unvetted words of Jesus Christ, who accepted all sinners, could weaken the Church and, specifically, his power in it. Keenan aligns with a right-wing group in France that believes its current Republic has gone too far.
Jacques Bourbon, a direct descendent of King Louis XIV, leads a growing ultra-conservative movement seeking restoration of the monarchy, albeit one backed by a constitution. Jacques, a gifted intellectual, has crafted the legal framework and historical precedence, but lacks funding to propel his ideas into an increasingly liberal and self-serving population: a group that has allowed outsiders to dilute France’s heritage.
Keenan promises the gold in the Templar’s bank to Jacques, if he delivers him the Christ papyrus. Jacques accepts, but taking a relic from the floor in the middle of Notre-Dame de Paris is a daunting task. Until the horrific fire presents the chance. At great personal danger, Jacques gets the relic, but must work in the shadows as the French police think he started the fire.
The Pope, desperate to stem conservative forces that will drive the church back to the Middle Ages, calls on Darwin to find the trail to the Templar’s bank. Darwin and his wife Eyrún Stephansdottir are in Corsica, seeking respite from a previous harrowing adventure. But they can’t refuse the Pope’s urgent plea for help when his emissary shows up at their mountain home.
As Jacques resurfaces, they race to catch up. The mission becomes personal for Darwin, when the Pope’s errand aligns with his long-sought family quest. Could this end the Lacroix family curse? Follow Darwin and Eyrún as they are drawn together against Jacques Bourbon in a dangerous game of cat and mouse across France, Corsica, and South Africa.